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OSAT History

One Step at a Time has a rich and long history.   This year (2020), the club will celebrate its 29th anniversary in the spring, and conduct the 30th version of the OSAT Glacier Climbing Course.  
General background about the club, is origins and the orgins of some of its traditions are provided on this page.

During the latter half of the 1990s an article appeared in The Yodel called "Five Years Ago in OSAT".   A compilation of these stories provides a history of the first five years of the club.   The Yodel is a good source of historical information about the club, and can be accessed through the index of old newsletters.  A PowerPoint presentation celebrating the 20the year of the club and used at the 2011 Gratitude Dinner is also available, and a video of the OSAT History presentation at the beginning of the Glacier Climbing Course is available online on the OSAT YouTube Channel.

The founding of OSAT:                                                                                                                                               Top of page

Jim in MexicoOne Step at a Time was founded in 1991. The group was conceived of and organized by Jim Hinkhouse (pictured here). Jim was a recovering alcoholic, with twelve years of sobriety at that time. He found mountaineering to be a healthy and satisfying passion which he felt was important to his own recovery, and began to envision how he could weave his mountaineering interest into a way of fulfilling the twelfth step in the Alcoholics Anonymous regimen. 

The inspiration for combining climbing and recovery came on a hike up Mt. Si on New Years Day 1989.  After some self-described procrastination, in 1990 Jim began to formulate the idea of holding an AA meeting on the summit of Mount Rainier in conjunction with the national AA convention which was held in Seattle that year. 

Jim - Ingraham Glacier 91The amount of planning and training required conspired to prevent this dream from being realized. The following year, however, Jim brought together a small group of experienced mountaineers with a larger group of people interested in learning about mountain climbing. What these people had in common was a self-acknowledged alcohol dependency and a desire to stop drinking. Some had been sober for years, others for just weeks, but they all sought the mutual support and individual learning provided by AA.

The first organizational meeting for the what was called the "1991 AA Mt. Rainier Expedition" scheduled a conditioning hike up Tiger Mountain near Issaquah Washington on the first Thursday evening of daylight savings time, April 11. By the time the first newsletter was issued, it had been suggested that this Thursday night hike be turned into a regular weekly 12-step meeting. The first Thursday of daylight savings time has, been celebrated as OSAT's birthday, complete with sheet cakes, sparkling cider, balloons, smiles and hugs. The Thursday evening OSAT AA meeting is, thus, the "mother" meeting for OSAT, from which others trace their roots.

The OSAT Name:                                                                                                                                                           Top of Page

In the April 1991 newsletter concerning the planned Mt. Rainier climb, four names for the organization were suggested for consideration. Most of the suggestions attempted to make some connection between climbing and the recovery aspects of the group:
  • Getting High
  • Getting High on HighJim in Mexico - Photo by Terri S.
  • More than Twelve Steps
  • Recovering Alcoholics Mountaineer Society (RAMS)

The dozen or so people who showed up for the first organizational meeting on April 24 1991 selected "One Step at a Time" (OSAT) as the name for the club. This name had been adopted earlier as the name of the Thursday night AA meetings which began on Tiger Mountain April 11. The multiple possible interpretations of the name certainly lead to its attractiveness. To people who don't want to get involved in explaining the recovery aspect of the club, the name is an innocuous reference to a hiking and climbing truism, but to AA members and friends it is also a clever play on AA's "one day at a time" motto, also incorporating in its interesting turn of the phrase the idea of the "steps" fundamental to AA philosophy.

It has never seemed to bother anyone that the single "A" in the acronym doesn't precisely match the "at a" in the name, and as a result capitalization of the "at a" in the name seems subject to each particular writer's whim. Certainly AA is fundamental to OSAT, even if it was left it out of the acronym!

The OSAT Purpose and MIssion Statement                                                                                                                Top of page

Jim H used a long succession of phrases as part of the masthead for the OSAT newsletter (subsequently known as The Yodel, but in the early years simply entitled "One Step at a Time") to describe the purpose of the club. He began with:

"Spiritual adventures in the mountains - one day and one step at a time" (6/13/91)

. . . which attempted to evoke the spirituality aspects of AA as well as explicitly making the link between the AA motto and the club name. This latter aspect was at once perhaps both too blatant and too subtle, so a few months later the masthead sported the explanation:

"OSAT - an outdoor club for members of Twelve Step Recovery Programs" (8/22/91)

It should be noted that there were discussions early on as to whether the club should be open to AA members only or members of any twelve stop program. This declaration reflected the group conscience on that issue. Later that year, the "outdoor club" identity was made more specific, as:

"A mountaineering club for members of twelve step recovery programs" (11/5/91)

When it was pointed out that spouses and "significant others" were also participating actively in the organization, the decision was made to broaden the purpose to include them, thus:

"A mountaineering club for members and friends of twelve step recovery programs" (2/13/92)

Finally, midway through the second summer season of OSAT activities, realization that a spectrum of outdoor interests was represented within the club.  Even though mountaineering was clearly the foundation, the purpose readopted "outdoor club" as the fundamental noun describing the group. This purpose statement, which now has withstood the test of time, describes in a dozen (that magic twelve!) words, what OSAT is all about:

"An outdoor club for members and friends of twelve step recovery programs" (7/14/92)

Jim H presented a proposal to the February 1994 club meeting that included additional organizational responsibilities for the Board of Trusted Servants (BOTS). The BOTS's organizational proposal discussed at the March club meeting included, as the first mentioned BOTS responsibility, to develop and submit to the full membership for approval a statement on the mission (purpose and objectives) of OSAT. At the April 1994 business meeting the Mission Statement was adopted as follows:

"To provide a clean and sober environment for members and friends of 12-step recovery groups to participate in outdoor and social events in the spirit of conservation, preservation, and ecology."

In the months that followed, additions and alterations were proposed during several club meetings, but most members felt that, while the suggestions were typically valid aspirations and statements of principle for the group, they unnecessarily complicated the otherwise straightforward mission statement.  However, in later years, concern was raised that people not sincerely involved in one way or another with the recovery aspect of the club led to a slight change in wording of who OSAT was serving:

"To provide a clean and sober environment for members of 12-step recovery groups and their family and friends to participate in outdoor and social events in the spirit of conservation, preservation, and ecology."

In late-2018 the club voted to update the statement to reflect a growing commitment to stewardship as well as the continuing principles of recovery:

"To provide a clean and sober environment for members of 12-step recovery groups and their family and friends to participate in outdoor and social events in the spirit of recovery, conservation, ecology and stewardship."

The OSAT Motto:                                                                                                                                                        Top of page

"Keep Climbing Mountains, and Don't Slip!".  From the point of few of following the history of a phrase, the origins of the OSAT motto are particularly interesting to trace. After years of use, we tend to think of these words as automatic, presuming they sprang forth in finished form. Indeed a majority of today's members have known nothing else, and even among those who were involved with OSAT from the start, few remember the turns the phrase took before reaching its timeless simplicity. 

The heading of the June 13, 1991 newsletter incorporated the phrase "Spiritual adventures in the mountains - one day and one step at a time." As the name of the club began to stand on its own double meaning, and the purpose evolved to a more utilitarian form, the need for a club motto emerged.

On the November 1991 newsletter, the phrase "Climb mountains and don't slip" appeared on the masthead below the purpose statement for the first time. Here again, Jim evokes a double entendre as a technique to link mountaineering and recovery. "Don't slip" has obvious meaning to a climber, but certainly the deeper meaning in the context of staying clean and sober holds much more significance to vast majority of OSAT members.   Considering the twists and turns the phrase took over the next year and a half, it is interesting to see how close this early version came to the motto that endured.

On the March 1992 newsletter, for reasons that are unclear, this was changed to much less elegant "Keep climbing mountains and don't drink in between." Perhaps Jim was feeling some members needed a more blatant reminder of what was intended.

The May 1 1992 newsletter was the first in which Jim quoted the Dalai Lama under the simple motto "Keep Climbing Mountains", which vaguely suggests the AA meeting admonition to "Keep coming back."

On the October 1992 newsletter, the motto was altered slightly to read "Keep climbing mountains and don't slip in between." Again, Jim appears to have wrestled the prose into a more blatant explanation of what he wants the phrase to convey. AA's "Keep coming back" simply implies not slipping in between, and this version of the OSAT phrase loses the double entendre charm of the simpler ". . . and don't slip" originally used a year earlier. Nevertheless, the makings of the more elegant present form were now all there.

Finally in the May 1993 newsletter, the motto appeared for the first time in its current form, "Keep climbing mountains and don't slip."  This was the version the phrase which had been recommended at the April 1993 club meeting as the meeting closing mentioned in the AA group preamble, subsequently adopted by group conscience at the next Tiger AA meeting. Although remarkably close to the original phrase, it had taken two years and five renditions to evolve to its current form. Later, Jim (and subsequently others) began writing this at the close of articles in the newsletter, summit registers, or elsewhere, and in some places it appears simply as "KCM-ADS".   Another OSATer who is no longer with us, Dave McClenahan, had a bumper sticker made with "KCM&DS" on it, and this also shows up as a letter closing now and then.

Expeditions:                                                                                                                                                                 Top of page

In 1993 OSAT began organizing its first international expedition- -and in February 1995 sixteen members traveled to Africa for a successful climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Three of the members of that climb went on to attempt Mt. Kenya, but were turned around by poor climbing conditions high on the mountain.

In May 1995 the OSAT Denali Expedition ended in tragedy, as three members including club founder Jim Hinkhouse died while attempting to establish an emergency bivouac in a horrific storm at Windy Corner.

In 1997 another major OSAT expedition traveled to Argentina for a climb of Aconcagua, the 22,384 foot summit of the Andes in Argentina, and the highest mountain outside central Asia. Five members were on the mountain for two weeks, and spent two nights in camp at over 20,000 ft before being turned back from a summit attempt by high winds and low visibility.

In 2002 six OSATers spent two weeks in Ecuador, climbing three peaks of 15,000-19,000 feet.

Smaller groups of OSATers have made climbing trips to Nepal, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia, Canada, and Europe.

OSAT Traditions:                                                                                                                                                        Top of page

No one likes rules.   But an organization the size of OSAT which involves participation in potentially dangerous activities does need a set of primary operating principles to which all members adhere for their common welfare.  OSAT adopted a set of "Traditions" that provide organizational guidance to help keep members safe in group activities.   The Traditions have been updated as needs have arisen.

The Dalai Lama Quote                                                                                                                                            Top of page

"The relationship of height to spirituality is not merely metaphorical, it is a physical reality.  The most spiritual people of this planet live in the highest places.  So do the most spiritual flowers . . . I call the high and light aspects of my being spirit and the dark and heavy aspect soul.  Soul is at home in the deep shadowed valleys.  Spirit is a land of high, white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers . . . People need to climb the mountain not simply because it is there, but because the soulful divinity needs to be mated with the spirit."

                                                                                                                                                  -- 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

The quotation from The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet first appeared in the March 25, 1992 newsletter. Jim H. was first exposed to the quotation about the spirituality of mountains from the Dalai Lama in a drama concerning mountaineering. He made the effort to get the full text of the quote, and began including it in the club newsletter. The quotation has become a cherished tradition of OSAT, reminding us why mountains and mountaineering are important in our lives.

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